Belina is a metaphor for Romania. Once we understood what has happened with this piece of land in the last years, we understood better what is happening to nowadays’ Romania.
On this island on the shore of the Danube River, one can easily see what it means when some people put themselves above the law, and the power of state institutions put in place to defend the rights of citizens weighs no more than some useless declarations on paper.
In the last two years, while documenting protests in defense of the rule of law in Bucharest – where people started to talk about the imminent installation of a dictatorship – we have made regular trips to Teleorman county and seized all chances to enter Belina, the treasure island.
On Belina, laws and rights exist only in theory. There is no transparency of political decisions, crimes happen behind illegal barriers, law enforcement officers work only for those in power, and if these people ever have to face a judge, their court proceedings are delayed, laws are changed in their benefit and the injustice to citizens is never made up for.
The story on the ground, at Belina, has always the same main character: Liviu Dragnea, the strongman behind the Romanian government.
Corruption in Teleorman, and even more so on Belina is not an abstract thing at all, as here it means that someone, from one day to the other, takes the fish from your table and denies you access to the island which for generations had been the local fishing ground and until 2011 the economic backbone of tens of industrial fishermen in the region. And their families of course.
Nowhere in the whole world does the presumption of innocence exist for politicians in the eye of the public. After having listened to testimonies of the people in Teleorman, and after having been numeroous times on Belina, we can tell that Liviu Dragnea is guilty.
For 20 years, Dragnea has been in the highest public offices in that county. And he has claimed to work for the benefit of the community. In fact, though, what he left behind behind is a place where even the notion of common good is unknown to the local administration. Above all, Dragnea makes himself guilty of the poverty of the people he has ruled for oh-so many years.
The day will come when a judge will have to pronounce how many laws Dragnea broke in order to put his hands on former state-owned properties, benefit from former state-owned companies and take control over an island, a county and an entire country.
We are no judges, we cannot give a verdict and state here and now which are the laws that Dragnea broke or how many his people changed for their own benefit. But what we can do is take you on a journey where all you need to take with you is common sense, so you can judge for yourself.